ANSA Merchant Bank’s managing director Gregory Hill says strategically, this country needs to have a clear plan in paving the way forward.
Having a budget, he said, is not a plan but rather a “statement on income and expenditure.”
“To have a plan, you have to have a very good understanding of where you are in the context of the world and where the future is going to be,” Hill explained while speaking at Amcham T&T’s Economic outlook forum 2023 held at the Hilton yesterday titled, “Recalibrate and Refresh.”
According to Hill, T&T already has the intellectual capacity to put together such a plan.
However, he emphasised that it is “critically important now as a nation” to have a distinct objective noting.
“What we are experiencing now is a bit of a revolution...The world hit pause with the pandemic and it has been kick-started somewhat and it’s reframing what and how we want to interact with each other not only as individuals but also as countries.”
According to Hill, there’s also a reorganisation of geopolitics and transformation taking place in various spheres including energy, digital transformation and education.
“We are seeing a focus on conscious capital in terms of our planet, purpose, people and prosperity so we are going to see more change in the next ten years than we have seen in the last 100 years. So it’s a unique point in time and we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us as a country because we get to be part of this new revolution,” Hill added.
T&T is already facing a host of challenges including a run-away crime rate, increasing inflation, and skyrocketing food prices which were all brought to the fore during the event.
According to Hill, it’s not just having a plan but considering all the factors to execute and build upon this for the long term.
Further, he recommended the nation do a “self-assessment” of where it wants to be and then take those actions “right now” to position itself.
Zack Nadur, partner, strategies and transactions, EY Caribbean, who was also on the panel said having a plan and shaping the country’s future is not the sole responsibility of the Government but the private sector has an equal right to do so.
He cited Amcham T&T and other business entities as the voice of the corporate community.
“And us taking that responsibility of doing our part with collaboration in mind...let us not wait to be told. Let us be part of the voice for initiating that change and being part of what tomorrow will look like,” Nadur advised.
Having a plan also requires engagement from all, echoed Greer Quan, CEO, Caribbean, Pan American Life Insurance Group.
This, she added, is important in having “buy-in” for the future agenda.
“It is one thing to articulate it but it’s another to ensure the success of it,” Quan added.
On whether the country was regressing as a nation in terms of its digital transformation she acknowledged that globally, COVID induced digital progress.
From a business perspective organisations, she noted, survived in the framework of restrictions adding that there has been significant development in the insurance industry to ensure there’s technological development to meet the needs of customers.
However, she said more can be done locally.
“But when you think about it from a global scale, looking at what Trinidad is doing versus the global marketplace there’s significant opportunity for improvement,” Quan recommended adding, “Would that be considered as regression? Maybe I would say the rate of progress is not as swift.”
However, Nadur reiterated that the time for digital transformation “is now.”
It’s a “strategic imperative,” he added.
While Nadur said some have been slow to act he did not see regression but rather progression.
“It is becoming a way of doing business as we have also incorporated changes within our own execution of our work and duties by working remotely. The technology and the whole digital transformation movement was actually accelerated because of the advent of COVID,” Nadur explained.
He added depending on the size, sale and complexity of the organisations these will dictate the speed of transformation while encouraging those “on the fence” to move quicker.
On a larger scale in propelling T&T into the international arena, Hill said more focus ought to be placed on integration.
“Our oil and gas sector is heavily integrated in the global commodity space and as a country, we benefit from things that take place around the world but we also suffer as well because the energy sector is a commodity cycle,” Hill said.
However, he noted that the sector’s radical transformation in moving towards greener fuels means further opportunity not only for the country but also for its people.
“We should be pivoting that skill-set in the green energy industry that is going to come and as a nation, we need to strategically position ourselves... and that’s where the opportunity lies,” Hill added.
During the talks, emphasis was also placed on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) which Nadur noted have gained momentum in recent years.
He said ESG has become almost like an “unspoken expectation” that external stakeholders will have of any company.
Additionally, he said when there are scarce investment dollars, companies must think about where can they get the biggest bang for their buck.
“And we are going through so much change and there’s competition for the investment of these dollars, doing something that is corporately socially responsible or to meet an expectation that external stakeholders have of the entity is something that provides a headwind to companies that have competition for their investment dollars,” Nadur explained.
With that being said, if ESGs are not in place, he added, then there’s the likelihood of being forsaken by external stakeholders as Nadur stressed the importance of doing good and being purposeful.
“This is not our natural default as humans but this is the expectation that society is now going to hold us to a higher standard and that is something businesses ought to be cognisant of and to start to consider, slowly and you will see the natural momentum,” he added.